Auto mechanics struggle as chip shortages and labor shortages continue


SOUTH DENNIS – Another trend in the pandemic is that more and more people are keeping their cars longer and choosing to repair them instead of paying the additional cost of a new or used vehicle.

As a result, auto mechanics are busier than ever and are often unable to keep up with customer demand.

“We are buried,” said Mike Ehrhart, co-owner of the Enginuity auto repair shop in South Dennis. “We’re really busy fixing cars. “

The expected wait time for repairs at the World Tech Auto Center in Hyannis was typically 24 hours, owner Besart Kamberi said. Now it’s usually two weeks.

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The average selling price of a new vehicle in the United States was $ 43,355 in August, marking the fifth consecutive month of record breaking, according to the Kelley Blue Book.

August also marked one of the lowest monthly new vehicle sales totals the country has seen in a decade, the vehicle information and rating source reported.

A global shortage of microchips has led automakers to suspend or slow production of many new models. As a result, car inventories are only a fraction of what is typical, and the available cars sell for a higher price.

Automotive Industry News:General Motors to Temporarily Suspend Production at Almost All U.S. Factories Amid Pandemic Overseas Chip Shortage

The shortage of new cars has pushed many buyers into the used car market, driving up prices, according to Kelley Blue Book.

“People are kind of (between) a rock and (a) hard place,” Ehrhart said, while working overtime on a Saturday. Many people who were thinking of buying a new car can no longer.

Instead, they hit the “easy button” and pay for the repairs, he said.

Increase in shipping costs abroad

The cost of shipping containers to bring in the parts needed to repair cars has also skyrocketed, Kamberi said.

“It’s getting harder and harder every day to import something,” said Kamberi, who relies on coins from all over the world.

Besart Kamberi, owner of the World Tech Auto Center in Hyannis, said delays in obtaining auto parts and a shortage of technicians have contributed to longer wait times for auto repairs.

“Things that used to be the next day, the second day (delivery) are now three to four days, 10 days, two weeks. Every time you’re going to get it, you’re going to get it, ”Ehrhart said.

Last year, when the world shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ehrhart wasn’t surprised when people stopped driving.

“After that, I think people delayed a lot of the repairs that were needed. And when things started to get back to normal, they came out of the woods and wanted to travel and come back to life, ”Ehrhart said.

Labor shortage includes auto and truck technicians

One of the main drivers of the auto repair backlog is the lack of auto technicians and trucks, according to a 2020 TechForce Foundation study.

Despite strong demand, the shortage continues to worsen even with a slight increase in diplomas and certificates for future diesel technicians, the Phoenix-based nonprofit said. According to the report, 642,000 auto body, diesel and collision technicians will be needed nationwide between 2020 and 2024.

Mike Ehrhart, co-owner of the Enginuity auto repair shop in South Dennis, said demand is so high he's booking customers in two weeks.

“The repair shops are blocked for help,” Kamberi said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, World Tech Auto had 12 technicians, and now there are only five or six, he said.

After losing a mechanic to a larger dealership outside Cape Town in June, Enginuity only had to come to an agreement with three auto mechanics, which increased the wait time for customers. As a result, customers book repairs two weeks later.

“I’m so late now, I can’t keep taking them (clients),” Ehrhart said.

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